The Russian military’s chemical warfare defense unit has once again found traces of chemical arms used by foreign-backed militants against civilians in Syria’s northwestern province of Aleppo.
This time, the Russian Troops of Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense (RChBD), as the unit is known, found an unexploded shell containing mustard gas, RT reported on Friday.
Such projectiles were reportedly used against residents of a village in the province in September, inflicting respiratory injuries on 40 people.
“An express-analysis of the contents [of ammunition] carried out using a portable infrared spectrometer revealed the presence of vesicant chemical warfare agent sulfur mustard,” said an RChBD representative.
According to RT, the recovered chemical round is a crude homemade 240-mm mortar shell, with a capsule in the rear. The capsule contained from 0.5 to 1.5 liters of a black oily liquid, which proved to be a chemical warfare agent.
The RChBD representative further said, “We’ve taken roughly a 20 milliliter sample from the shell. Afterwards it was sealed tight and delivered to the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic for further investigation.”
On November 11, the Defense Ministry cited the RChBD as saying that it had found similar unexploded projectiles containing “chlorine and white phosphorus” in the 1070 district of Aleppo’s capital, which bears the same name as the capital.
Aleppo has been divided over the past four years between government forces in the west and foreign-backed militants in the east, making it a front-line battleground.
In September, the Russian military had warned that terror groups might start deploying chemical agents against the city’s government-controlled areas.
At least eight people, including five civilians, suffered breathing difficulties in mid-September after Daesh terrorists fired mortar shells containing toxic gases in the towns of Harbal and Um Hosh, north of Aleppo.
Foreign supporters of the militants operating against the Syrian government have repeatedly accused Damascus of resorting to chemical weapons in Aleppo, an allegation strongly denied by Syria and Russia.
The Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013. The UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsOPCW has overseen operations to remove the government chemical arsenal from Syria.
The deal came after hundreds of people were killed in an August 2013 chemical attack in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus. The Syrian government agreed to turn over its arsenal of chemicals despite denying any role in the Ghouta attack.
Last week, the UN Security Council extended for an additional year the mandate of an OPCW team investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Also on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for further investigation into whether the Syrian government has used chemical weapons before the Arab country comes under sanctions as France has proposed.
Lavrov said a special UN unit had found that many Syrian opposition forces had used chemical weapons, so an investigation should be conducted on whether government forces have done so as well.
“We support the carrying out of investigations right now, on all the materials, information and any suspicious places. Currently, it is not 100 percent certain whether the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, so it should be rechecked,” said the foreign minister.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had said on Wednesday that an agreement was in the works at the UN Security Council to condemn the Syrian government for allegations it has used chemical weapons.
Lavrov further said the French proposal essentially seeks to isolate the Syrian government and buy time for the militants, warning that such a plan is against France’s national interest.